Last weekend I travelled to Denmark for the first time for a short stay in Copenhagen. Prior to visiting, I knew very little about the capital city, other than the fact that one of the world’s top restaurants can be found there. Whilst Noma was a little beyond our grasp, Emma and I soon found a variety of sightseeing to fill our weekend. Whilst we were there, the city was preparing for Christmas, with market structures being built and the Trivoli gardens being shut for a festive transformation. It would have been nice to have been in Copenhagen a week or two later, but the pay off was that the streets were a little less crowded, totally removed from the busyness of places such as central London.
Top of my list was to visit Freetown Christiania, an autonomous community located on former military barracks. Since it’s founding in 1971, some 1000 residents have moved in, transforming the area from a squatter’s zone to an established, vibrant community that formally bought the land in 2011. Whilst there has been a history of civic unrest and even riots, the area today is safe enough to be one of Copenhagen’s largest tourist attractions, and the community bans stealing, violence, weapons, hard drugs and biker’s clubs. Emma and I ended up entering Christiania away from the main tourist street, which gave us time to explore the quieter parts of the town. My absolute favourite thing about Christiania is the architecture, with many of the houses and structures being innovative self-builds.
As recommended by Sarah Britton of My New Roots, we had lunch at Morgenstedet, a ecological, vegetarian restaurant in Christiania. Each day, there is a new selection of fresh salads, hot dishes and soups, all made and served from the open kitchen. The food was really good, and with the kitchen and jars of ingredients on show, it felt very honest and homely. It was my favourite food spot of the trip, and so I’d highly recommend it. We continued wandering and found a gorgeous jewellery studio on the waterfront, where I purchased a rose gold lotus ring and little turquoise hoop earrings; the perfect memento of our stay. Helena Waldmann, the jeweller, has lived in Christiania for twenty years, which makes her a relative newcomer, and just lives in the most beautiful house.
After a quick pit stop at Hotel Chocolat to warm up and get wifi -you need to try their gingerbread hot chocolate -Emma and I explored the city centre. The Danish people, unsurprisingly, have winter weather completely nailed and left me wanting to go ankle boot shopping big time!
Day two called for a more expert view of the city, so we booked in to a canal tour. It’s a total cliche, but I really do find that tours -be it walking, on a boat or cycling -are the best way to learn about the history of a new place whilst also building a mental map to avoid getting lost later. We got to see places such as Amalienborg palace from the water, giving us the best views. By this point, the November weather had us feeling pretty cold, so it was time for glogg, the Danish take on mulled wine with raisins and slivered almonds added.
Much of our stay had us based around Nyhavn, a harbour lined with colourful houses that were featured in the Danish Girl, and the home (in several buildings) of Hans Christian Anderson. There are HC Anderson-themed tourist attractions everywhere, from the statue of the little mermaid north of Christianshavn to the fairy tale house close to the railway station. Nyhavn was preparing for Christmas sooner than the rest of the city, with little huts selling wears lining all of one side of the harbour. Hot drinks and waffles were at every turn, peppered with stands selling Christmas decorations and warm accessories. With dozens of bars and restaurants offering outside seating, it was the perfect people-watching zone, especially when embracing hygee (I had to mention it somewhere!) as we drunk glogg in the evening wrapped in blankets.
I totally fell for Copenhagen and was left wanting more, so a return will definitely be on the cards! For a capital city, it didn’t feel crowded at all, which was really refreshing. For a winter wonderland, Copenhagen is definitely the place to be.